Police are accused of killing 8 protesters

Afghan police were accused of killing eight protesters at a demonstration on Wednesday as the U.S.-led coalition said it had opened an investigation into allegations of misconduct by NATO troops during an encounter with insurgents.

Both incidents occurred in southern Afghanistan, where violence has escalated in recent weeks following a Taliban announcement that it was launching its spring offensive.

Villagers in the town of Maiwand said Afghan police opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators who were protesting raids that Afghan and NATO forces conducted in the village of Loye Karez two days earlier.

Accounts differed as to whether the eight killed were unarmed protesters or militants. Ten other people were wounded. The Kandahar provincial police chief said Taliban insurgents had infiltrated the demonstration.

In a separate incident, the NATO-led force said Wednesday that it had begun an investigation into allegations of misconduct following an internal report into an April 28 encounter with insurgents in Zabul province.

The statement did not offer more details, and Lt. Tamarac Dyer, a coalition spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that “this is the only information we are able to release at this time due to the ongoing investigation.” Afghan officials were not immediately available for comment.

— Associated Press

U.S. to augment aid to imperiled civilians

The Obama administration is providing $100 million in new Syria aid, U.S. officials said Wednesday, but the money is for humanitarian purposes only and not linked to any decision on arming the rebels.

The announcement will be made by Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Thursday in Rome, where his diplomacy will include a meeting with Jordan’s foreign minister, the officials said.

The new funds will help support 1.4 million Syrian refugees, including many in U.S. ally Jordan, and hundreds of thousands of other civilians still trapped by the violence inside Syria’s borders. Total U.S. humanitarian assistance in the two-year conflict will climb to $510 million.

The U.S. officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter ahead of Kerry’s announcement.

While the cash influx will certainly be welcomed by aid groups and refugee organizations that have lamented a lack of financial support, it is unlikely to end the clamoring for lethal assistance among the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

— Associated Press

3-nation sweep detains 31 in diamond heist: Officials claimed a major breakthrough Wednesday in their probe of a $50 million diamond heist, detaining at least 31 people in a three-nation sweep about three months after robbers pulled off the theft with clockwork precision at the Brussels airport. A Frenchman thought to have been one of the actual robbers was arrested in France, six to eight people were detained in Geneva, and 24 were seized in and around Brussels.

Kurdish rebels withdraw from Turkey to Iraq: Kurdish rebels have started their gradual retreat from Turkey to bases in northern Iraq, a Kurdish party leader said Wednesday, kicking off a key stage in the peace process with the Turkish government aimed at ending one of the world’s bloodiest insurgencies. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, declared a cease-fire in March and agreed to withdraw, heeding a call from its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who is engaged in negotiations with Turkey to end a nearly 30-year battle that has cost tens of thousands of lives.

UN: Congo troops raped girls as young as six: Congolese troops fleeing the M23 rebels last November raped at least 97 women and 33 girls, some as young as 6, a U.N. report released Wednesday said. The U.S. Africa Command trained one of the units involved, Commando Battalion 391, in 2010 to be “a model for future reforms within the Congolese armed forces,” according to the AFRICOM Web site. The U.N. report covered “mass rape, killings, and arbitrary executions and violations resulting from widespread looting,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.

— From news services